Mar 11 2012

“Be my eyes and show me everything that I cannot see”

Category: Books,Children,Friends,Interviews,MJ QuotesSeven @ 11:43 am

Michael with photographer John Isaac

This is an interview with photographer John Isaac who shares his memories of working and spending time with Michael. John remembers going to Neverland to photograph Michael and his son Prince, and he remembers a surprise Michael had for his fans at the concert in Milan.

John says he cannot watch the TII film yet because of the immense grief it causes, but says he sometimes sees Michael on a clear, starry night.

[Translated with slight edits to make sense of translation]

Q: When was the first time you saw Michael?

One day I received a phone call. The voice said: “Are you John Isaac?” I said, “Yes” and asked who he was. The voice said: “Michael.” I said “Michael,” The voice said: “Michael Jackson” I said, “Who?” and hung up. A few seconds later the phone rang again, and Bob Jones was wondering why I had hung up the phone on Michael Jackson! I replied: “It was really him?” and handed the phone to Michael. He said he was a fan of my photographs. He bought a poster I created for UNICEF on which featured many children because he loved the pictures and wanted to meet me. He asked if I could go to Neverland and sign the poster. I said I could sign one and send it to New York, but he insisted that I go to Los Angeles. Three days later, they came to the Big Apple to film “They Don’t Care About Us” (prison version) and he invited me and my wife Jeannette to go see the movie. So we went and we met. The next day he asked me to spend the afternoon with him at his hotel in Manhattan and studied my photographic work.

Q: What is the best advice he gave you?

He once told me that I had a knack for photography and should continue to use it to help children around the world. He knew how much I cared about children. I took him to Brazil when they were finishing the video “They Don’t Care About Us“, and he said something I’ll never forget. “John, be my eyes and show me everything that I cannot see.”  I was so excited that I made photos of children in the slums of Rio de Janeiro and Salvador, while they were filming. I travelled in his private plane to Brazil. It was my first trip with him. Michael always supported me, he was aware of my provenance. One day he said we’ve both been to many different places and that is why we both love children. (John Isaac was born in India and spent 20 years working as a photographer of the United Nations, covering countries such as Vietnam, Rwanda, Sarajevo …).

Q: You’ve been to Neverland to take family photos of the first son of Prince Michael and Debbie Rowe. Please tell us more about this experience.

Debbie was not at Neverland, it was just Prince and Michael and I took pictures of father and son. I took the pictures with Debbie at a hotel in Los Angeles. I’ve been twice to Neverland. I drove an electric cart around the farm, saw movies in the theater, climbed on the train. I felt like a kid when I was there! One afternoon we saw a movie together. I was in the suite of Liz Taylor. Michael was very philosophical, often talked about philosophy and life. He asked me to tell him things about the children I had photographed around the world. When I worked for the United Nations, many stories of pain and suffering of all kinds of children. He was always very compassionate towards the less fortunate children.

Q: What is your favorite memory during HIStory World Tour?

At the beginning of the tour in Prague, I think he wanted me to photograph on the stage while he was singing “Heal the World.” I was scared up there in the spotlight with so many fans in front of me, my knees were shaking.  I enjoyed meeting fans around the world while traveling with him. I must say that I met many fine young men. Michael would not have been who he was, if not for all the wonderful fans who adored him so much. Being next to the King of Pop to visit hospitals and orphanages was something I especially appreciated.

Q: How many photographic sessions did you do with Michael Jackson?

I’m not sure how many, but I know there were many. Some special calendars for Sony and other announcements. He also wanted to take pictures with children before each concert.

Q: You told us that Michael had a surprise for fans at the concert in Milan on June 18, 1997: The photo of Michael’s hands and Prince on the screens near the stage. Michael decided to do this? What did he say?

He said it was one of the most special photos I had taken of him and Prince. I captured his hand taking Prince’s hand and he told me that he liked it so much he wanted to show the fans in Milan. It is one of my favorite toos. Michael does not even appear – only his hand protecting Prince.

Q: What picture of Michael do you feel most proud of?

There are many photos that I like, but one I took during a rehearsal in Los Angeles which was published in a special book: Laurent Hopman – Captain Eo Productions (program memory HIStory World Tour – Limited Edition). Michael is at center stage and all the dancers are around with different poses, rehearsing. It looks like a painting. Michael really liked this photo too. All dressed in casual clothes. I have no copy of this negative image because I gave them all to Michael.

Q: Why does it sometimes take three cameras at the same time? Did Michael wanted special pictures? It also seemed that he took more photos of fans than himself?

I remember that he wanted every moment of his life to be saved. Sometimes he wanted a black and white and the other two cameras were color photos. Today, with digital technology, you can convert the color to black and white with no problem, but with the old negatives it was more complicated. I also had three different types of lenses, so I could shoot quickly without having to change them. After a first selection on my part, Michael chose his favorite, and he had good taste selecting the photos! Michael was delighted to see the photos of his fans. They were very important to him.

Q: How did you hear of his sudden death, what was your reaction?

I saw it on TV. I was very, very sad. I felt so sorry that it happened so soon. However, I know he’s up there shining like a star. Every time I see a clear sky at night, I see Michael.

Q: Have you seen the movie Michael Jackson “This Is It“? can you comment on that?

My wife bought me the DVD. I’ve only seen parts of it and I grieved Michael’s death so much that I could not keep watching. Maybe one day I will see it to the end.

Q: What are your plans for the future, John Isaac?

I am finishing a documentary about myself as a photographer. In Japan I’ve been documenting on the survivors of the recent tsunami. While I was in Japan, I met some of Michael’s fans who were very friendly. In addition, Kodak House is preparing a permanent collection of my photographs in their museum. Unfortunately, I have no footage of what I did for Michael on tour or with Michael’s baby. I gave them all to his managers.

Edited and Translated from:

John’s life story and his wonderful photography:

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{ Thanks to our wonderful friends at UK Loves MJ for sharing this story! -Seven }

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Mar 10 2012

“Michael Loved to Fly”

Category: Friends,MJ Quotes,Photos,Quotes About MJ,VideosSeven @ 2:50 pm

Flying is an interest that had I ever met the man, I’d have shared with Michael Jackson. I used to fly small planes (a Cessna 150 prop plane) and have been up in an ultralight, as well as at least one aerobatic aircraft (biplane) as the pilot did barrel rolls, flew upside down and performed hammerhead, and knife-edge maneuvers.

It would seem obvious that Michael loved to fly since he apparently enjoyed being high up in a cherry-picker and had his own personal balloon pilot. Who wouldn’t enjoy a balloon ride with Michael? I know I would!  As for the cherry picker, I’m not so sure about that for myself but you’ve probably seen the video of the maniacal fan who no doubt scared the bejeesus out of Michael and compromised everyone’s safety by climbing onto the cherry picker with him during one of his performances.

‎”Michael loved to fly,” says choreographer Travis Payne. “He was fascinated with birds and things that could take flight. So when he’s on his cherry picker, it’s like he’s larger than life. Like a superhero.” While aboard the contraption, which was outfitted with fans, lights and a smoke machine, “He actually gets to be closer to the audience,” says Payne.

Michael on the cherry-picker, birds-eye view

Some interesting information on the crane used for Michael’s HISTORY tour from

Michael Jackson used the crane for his performances of “Beat it” and “Earth Song”, during his 1996/97 tour. The crane, for the first time, was protruding into the audience, straight out and flat. This caused a change in the dynamics between Michael and the audience. The distance between the fans and Michael was drastically increased which means that the atmosphere at the front was a lot less than his previous tours. Michael used the crane as a walkway during the first leg of the tour, during, “The way you make me feel” and rarely during “History”, where he would walk down and wave. The walkway was also used by the dancers in “Beat it

Michael Jackson’s safety on the crane

Michael Jackson certainly performed to the maximum of his capability and obviously wasn’t overtly concerned about risk. Michael would not only hang out of the crane with his feet hooking on to the edge but during the History tour would hand out fully, just hanging from his arms and then pull himself back onto the crane.

Technically, the crane had smoke machines and lighting on the crane which, when Michael hung down could easily get hooked on – this is very apparent in shows like the Burcharest concert and shows like New Zealand where he nearly lost his shoe. They reduced the lighting covers for the second leg so that no lights, covers or piping was outside the lip of the crane platform for him to get hooked onto accidentally when he was pulling himself back on to the crane. They also added a safety piece of material to prevent any more hooking of his legs on the lights or light covers.

Safety harness?

Michael would probably never hook himself into a safety harness if he could perform without one and if we look on the crane during the tour we can see no safety harness EXCEPT on one concert – It looks like if we take a closer look at the Bucharest concert on the History tour we have some kind of arm restraint to either a) hold onto or B) for Michael to put his arm through – to prevent him from falling – either way, it was not used and was removed from the crane on later dates.

Notable incident – “Earth Song” fan intruder!

If you haven’t seen the stage intruder during this song, go and watch it here (6.20m). The question is “How did a fan get so close to Michael?”. What happened is that Michael got into the crane as he usually did, which is about 15 – 20 metres off the crowd, just as it got to it’s full height, a fan jumped over the barriers, onto the crane and right to the top of it and grabbed Michael. He then stayed up at the top of the crane with Michael until the conclusion of the section (the crane couldn’t be brought down immediately) and then he refused to let go of Michael. He had to be ripped off by security. You can read more about this incident HERE .

History tour in Brunei – No crane!

The only concert on the History tour, without use of the crane was in Brunei. The reason for this is because it was such a small audience – almost a private show of a couple of thousand people, that the area that the crane takes up, with the barriers and everything included would probably be 50% of the total audience area – so it didn’t make any sense – This concert had the audience as close as anyone could get on this tour. The area was still there, including the barriers, as if the crane were there, just a little smaller and without the crane. Another reason is that the crane, when doing it’s 360 degree revolution would go beyond the audience.

Beat it entrance – Brunei

The stage illusion from Thriller into Beat it was obviously affected by the lack of a crane, as Michael usually disappears from the contraption and appears on the crane. For this concert Michael arrived on the right hand side of the stage but on a hydraulic platform from underneath the stage, that is usually used by the dancers for “They don’t care about us” and “Thriller” – The change worked well. Michael obviously had Michael Bush remove his big black coat a lot earlier than usual and Michael also had a significant amount of time standing on stage getting the crowd going with his “hooooos!”, which is all usually done at the top of the crane.

Earth Song ending – Brunei

As the crane was missing, also was a big part of “Earth Song”. For this concert Michael performed the ending of the song as he usually has on other occasions, without the crane, just performing on the stage.

Beat it in Prague – opening night

I think that this was a great use of the crane – opening of “Beat it” – Prague opening night of the History tour. Although the beginning of the song was plagued with technical problems (ie the band messing up!), the beginning of this song had a much longer use of the crane. Michael basically performed the whole first verse of the song UP on the crane instead of, as would go on to be, on the stage. I think that this makes sense and adds to the spectacle! If you’re gonna go to that much effort to get a crane and push the audience so far back, you might as well use it! It added a little bit of variety, which the tour lacked at times.

Crane Speed and controls

It would seem that the crane is on some kind of mechanism that once it starts is easier to do a full rotation than to put it in reverse. We see this in Korea. When the intruder came on the crane the logical thing to do would be to reverse it and take it down (as it had not started it’s 360 degree rotation yet). We also see that when Michael steps off the crane early sometimes that the crane really bounces when it is paused. We obviously have some kind of delay. So, it is not easily controlled. For Beat it it goes straight up and straight down. For Earth Song it goes straight up, rotates 360 degrees, then straight down. Michael changes the time he jumps on during Earth Song from show to show which means that he ends it and jumps back off the crane at different times, altering the ending of the song. This is obviously a big piece of hydraulic machinery, unlike the Bad tour which seemed to be powered by weight transfer and balanced precisely.

The crane getting in the way?

The crane doesn’t get in the way of the show but if you looked closely you will have seen the crane being set up and taken down. For example, we have the walkway which is added to the stage which connects the stage to the arm of the crane.This walkway is then removed whenever the crane is going to be used and THEN replaced with the crane’s platform and barrier. We see, if you look closely, the crane “Barrier” is moved and rotated to the left just after the start of “Beat it” when Michael has vacates it, on the tour. This is done by his stage manager who physically lifts the frame out of the crane arm and moves it out of the way, to the left, thus giving the audience a clear view without the obstruction of the crane AND the option for Michael to walk down the platform and use the crane as a kind of stage. If you were at the front row and took your eyes off MJ for 10 seconds, you may have noticed!


At the Wetten Dass performance, Michael seems to get to the crane late. He performs the rest of the song from the crane, and one wonders if the way he hung from the crane at 5.36 and 6.02 had his insurers ready to have kittens. At around 4:00, he seems to let the cameraperson know he doesn’t like the camera in his face. This performance was before a studio audience, but screens were erected outside so that 10 – 20,000 people could watch Michael perform outside the venue as well:

Up, Up, and Away in his beautiful balloon 

In 1962, Col. Joe Kittinger became the first man in space and he wasn’t there long. He jumped out of a high-altitude balloon at 102,800 feet to became the first human to break the speed of sound without a vehicle. In 1984, he became the first person to cross the Atlantic solo in a hot air balloon. But there was a chapter left out of his legendary ballooning career. For several years, Kittinger was Michael Jackson’s private pilot.

You can watch a video of Joe Kittinger telling his story of working as Michael’s personal hot air balloon pilot here:


Michael and friends on a balloon ride

There’s a reason God made the sunset red or purple or green. It’s beautiful to look at, it’s a minute of joy…Like when I’m 40,000 feet in the air in a Jumbo Jet at night and it’s dawn. Everybody on the plane is asleep, and here I am in the cockpit with the pilots…it’s just incredible seeing a sunrise and being up there with it. Pilots tell me, “I wish there was no such thing as having to go down and re-load with fuel. I wish I could stay up here forever”…And I totally understand what they mean.

-Michael Jackson in a 1980 interview he did with Melody Maker magazine

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Feb 26 2012

‘Meditations’ on the iconic women who fascinated Michael Jackson

Category: Art,Friends,MJ Quotes,Photos,Quotes About MJSeven @ 8:53 pm

There was quite a discussion recently on my MJJ-777 Facebook page about a particular painting that Michael acquired as part of what is called the ‘Jackson Seven‘. At least one person insists this painting reminded Michael of  a brunette Marilyn Monroe in her ‘Norma Jean’ days, since Michael had a life-size statue of Monroe in his home, as well as the name ‘Monroe‘ emblazoned on at least one jacket he wore early on. Yet others, including the Whelan Gallery itself, believe that Michael found the painting fascinating because it reminded him of Lisa Marie Presley.

I purchased a print of the painting in question titled ‘Meditations‘, and inquired as to what the gallery thought may have been Michael’s interest in the painting. Their response was as follows:

Michael Jackson didn’t make any comments about the painting to Patrick Whelan at the time, but he did speak to his associates about the painting. He indicated to them that he thought the painting resembled Lisa Marie Presley. His statements were recorded in a book by Randy Taraborrelli called “Michael Jackson, The Magic, The Madness, The Whole Story” The following is an excerpt from that book on the bottom of page #730:

“Michael was mesmerized by the painting and, according to someone very close to him, said, “This is how I imagine Lisa in my mind. In fact, when I dream about her, this is how she looks. I have to have this painting”

'Meditations' by Patrick Whelan

Marilyn Monroe statue Michael had at Neverland

Victory Tour Jacket with 'Monroe' on the sleeve

In my previous article about ‘The Jackson Seven‘, Patrick Whelan also had some comments about the likeness of the painting to LMP. When someone asked him about the resemblance, Patrick replied:

Thank-you for your lovely comments about the art. I do appreciate that. Meditations was one of my personal favorite paintings, so it was particularly gratifying for me when an artist of Michael’s stature was also drawn to it. I was very slow to see the connection to Lisa Marie because, of course, I know the model who actually posed for it. Nevertheless, I have heard this from so many people, including many who have come into the gallery and seen the print there, that it is finally becoming apparent to me.

But the clincher for me occurred a couple of weeks ago when I ran across an article that was published in a newspaper in Taiwan. They featured the Meditations painting alongside three photos of Lisa Marie which had been taken at the time she was with MJ. The resemblance was indeed striking. I am now convinced absolutely that this was the reason for his connection to it. He may have been planning to show it to her, or even to present it to her as a gift. But unfortunately, he passed so soon after it’s purchase that we can never know these things for sure.

I doubt very much if Lisa Marie is even aware of it’s existence. I think it would be a very wonderful thing though, if she did see this work, because then she would know that she was still in Michael’s heart even to the end.

Perhaps one day she will see it. I certainly hope so. I really think Michael would have liked that.

Best always,


As for the jacket, a few people wondered if it had been given to Michael by someone else but according to Julien’s, it was part of his personal collection. And, Michael liked to put little symbols on his clothing such as the number ‘7’, ‘CTE’, etc. in order to keep people guessing, so it’s not certain that ‘Monroe‘ on this jacket necessarily referred to Marilyn.

In an interesting twist to this puzzle, Lisa Marie did a photoshoot (I believe in Vanity Fair but it could be another magazine) as Marylin Monroe. The pictures are quite amazing. Her hooded eyes and especially her mouth are a dead ringer for Marilyn. Some people have wondered if the picture Aphrodite Jones wrote that Michael had was actually a picture of Lisa Marie or a picture of Marilyn.

Many women have done magazine covers, photo shoots or films as Marilyn Monroe, among them Madonna, Lindsay Lohan, Britney Spears, Megan Fox, etc. Lisa Marie is yet another name on that list. I timeless icon, Marilyn Monroe is still imitated by many women and idolized by many men years after her death.

Lisa Marie Presley as Marilyn Monroe

Lisa Marie Presley as Marilyn Monroe

The photos above were shot by photographer Herb Ritts, director of ‘In The Closet‘.

It certainly wouldn’t be surprising if Michael was intriqued by the resemblance between Monroe and Lisa Marie Presley. A lot of men liked Marilyn Monroe so why wouldn’t Michael Jackson? He was of an age to have known and remembered her well. Michael seemed to be especially fascinated with many iconic women such as Elizabeth Taylor, Sophia Loren, Jackie Onassis, Princess Diana, Diana Ross (whom many insist he was in love with), the late Whitney Houston, etc., so Marilyn Monroe would be a fitting fascination for him as well. As for Marilyn’s “Norma Jean” days, Michael swooned over an early photo of Elizabeth Taylor on a magazine when “shopping” in his home movies, so it wouldn’t be surprising if he also liked early Marilyn Monroe. On the other hand, he had an interest in Lisa Marie Presley from early on as well and Lisa Marie did have that same classic beauty.

It’s possible we may never know for sure what fascinated Michael about that ‘Meditations‘ painting, which he also called ‘The Blue Painting‘; and we may never know what ‘Monroe‘ really referred to on his early jackets. My personal takeaway from this discussion is that no matter what fascinated Michael about the ‘Meditations‘ painting, it’s a beautiful painting – winsome, charming, and innocent-looking. I’m not sure where I’ll put the print I purchased, but it will be lovely almost anywhere in my home.

Here are some photos of Michael with a few of the other female icons he seemed fascinated with and/or had relationships with during his lifetime:

Michael with Elizabeth Taylor - one of his very best friends

Michael with the lovely Sophia Loren

Michael with his dear friend Lady Diana

Michael with Diana Ross, his mother/sister/lover, he had said at one time.

Michael with the late Whitney Houston whom he has recently welcomed Home, sadly.

As a compliment to this discussion about Marilyn Monroe in particular, I ran across an article about what’s called ‘The Marilyn Meme‘  No doubt many women on Facebook have seen photos of Marilyn in a bathing suit with her thighs touching and insisting one can still be “adored by thousands of men” even if their thighs touch. In other words, it’s OK to be curvier because one can still be sexy or a ‘sex symbol‘ even when heavier set. Nothing wrong with that right? Women should have a healthy self-image.

The Marilyn Meme

But Marilyn Monroe didn’t have a healthy self-image, so holding her up as a poster-girl for a healthy self-image is very inappropriate if not downright ironic. It ignores a major problem in our society that simply should not go ignored. Once Norma Jean became Marilyn the sex symbol, her humanness and intelligence went altogether ignored no doubt causing her a great deal of emotional distress and likely contributing to her depression and ultimate death. The problem remains at epidemic levels: many girls and women today are anything but healthy because they work so hard trying to win men’s approval for their appearance and “sexiness“, while completely neglecting their own emotional, spiritual, and physical health as well as their intellectual and professional development – all so that men will approve of them and how they look and find them sexually attractive.

Here’s what the article says about this dangerous ‘Marilyn Meme‘:

here’s the thing: you are worth more than what men think of you. Marilyn Monroe was, to put it mildly, very sad, very often. She was a sex symbol, and thus, stopped existing as human being, a regular girl. Almost everything that f**ked up Marilyn’s later life had to do with being “adored” by men. Men used her, or deified her (and that’s a hard come-down for those dudes when they found a human being in their bed the morning after). Political brothers purportedly passed her around like a toy. Conventional wisdom, political conspiracy aside, has it that Monroe killed herself. Being “adored by thousands of men” didn’t stop her demons from consuming her. It angers me to no end that, again, in the name of self-esteem we’re going to make a poster girl (literally) out of a woman who was notoriously down on herself.

I want very much for us to stop thinking that there is only one body type that is acceptable. I would prefer the focus be on health, rather than appearance. The Monroe Meme seems about the furthest thing from healthy. This is a woman who abused alcohol and sleeping pills later in her life, this is a woman who (probably) died due to depression. But, hey, as long as someone thinks she looks good, I guess that’s what matters.

The last sentence of this quote is obviously sarcasm and serves to illustrate the point.

As a woman, do you really want to be “adored by thousands of men” (or any man) for your looks and little to nothing else? I think it’s a healthier attitude to respect one’s self, and insist that any man appreciate you for who you are and not (just) what you look like. Because if men can’t see you as anything other than what you look like, they can’t see you. You can’t have a meaningful relationship with someone who can’t (or doesn’t want to) see you. That’s what happened to Marilyn and she ended up devalued, lonely, depressed and finally dead.  And that’s not because she had good self-esteem! Norma Jean the human being was imprisoned inside the shell of Marilyn Monroe the sex symbol and she died in there. I have always felt sad for the ‘sex symbol‘ prison she ended up in, while her humanity and considerable intelligence went all but discounted and ignored by men and society until after she was gone. What a shame and what a terrible loss.

An MJ quote about this you might want to consider:

A young lady’s physical beauty can by no means outshine the inner beauty that radiates from her heart and spirit.” -Michael Jackson (1976)

With all due respect to poor Marilyn, if a guy wants a sex symbol or a Barbie, and a woman’s looks are primarily what’s important to him, let him more appropriately go to the toy store than chasing after an actual human. What a woman thinks of herself  is more important than what any man or men think of her, particularly if the male opinion is based solely on appearance. This is a huge problem in our society. More women need to work on loving and respecting themselves enough to separate their own self-image from what men think. Otherwise, you’re inviting a lifetime of abuse, sadness, and possibly emotional and physical illness. Forget being a sex symbol and forget worrying so much about what men think. Having their approval is obviously not all it’s cracked up to be. Work on being human and demand that others accept you as such, especially men.  If they can’t – lose ’em.

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NOTE:  Hateful or abusive comments about Lisa Marie Presley or other women mentioned in this piece will not be posted. Such comments are not relevant to the subject of this article.

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Feb 19 2012

MJ’s Greatest Bites With Mani and Akasha

Category: Friends,Photos,Quotes About MJ,VideosSeven @ 1:17 am

Golden Temple is a now defunct but once popular vegetarian restaurant in Los Angeles. Back in the ‘Thriller‘ days, Michael Jackson used to eat there. And it was there that he discovered Akasha Richmond and Mani Niall. Michael became a regular customer, and hired them to cook for him on tour and as private chefs. Michael first hired Mani as a private chef for the Victory Tour and then Akasha followed, having been hired to cater parties and dinners during the Bad and HIStory tours.

Cooking and traveling for the King of Pop shaped and inspired both Mani and Akasha’s culinary palettes. Says Mani: “I can truly say that working with Akasha was the first inspirational experience I had in the kitchen-and then Michael? He believed in me, treated me with respect and was really a fun person. When I went to work for him I was a cook and by the time I finished I was a chef.

Akasha shares her fondest memory of working with Michael: “My fondest memory would be living in NYC with him (1995) while he made the HIStory album, especially the night he played the piano for me and sang while I cooked him dinner. I met Michael for the first time at the Golden Temple when I was the chef there. We were both shy. He came in everyday. What I’ll miss most is the laugh, the love and fun that I have never seen since.

On June 25th, 2010, in celebration and remembrance of their time together with Michael, Mani joined Akasha in the AKASHA restaurant kitchen to cook up some of Michael’s favorite dishes. Akasha said: “Cooking for Michael was one of the greatest times of my life, and since Mani and I wanted to be together on the anniversary of his passing, we felt there was no better way to remember him than to cook up some of his favorite dishes.

"MJ's Greatest Bites" at Akasha restaurant in Culver City, June 25th, 2010

In the admittedly badly-lit video of the celebration below, you can watch them cooking Michael’s favorite dish: New Mexican Red Chile and Cheese Enchiladas. You’ll also see Mani enjoying another favorite of Michael’s for dessert: sweet potato pie with ‘ookie‘ crust. Mani will explain about the crust in the video. I have been told by others that Michael liked a particular kind of cookie that Chef Kai Chase would make for him and he also called them ‘ookies‘. You’ll have to watch the video to learn why he called them that. There are a few photos of Michael, some with Mani. You may have seen Mani previously in photos with Michael but perhaps not known who he was. Around 4:00, Mani tells how Michael employed his snake Muscles to give a little payback to some snobby CBS executives. They were not amused. But Michael certainly was!

New Mexican Red Chile and Cheese Enchiladas - one of Michael's favorite dishes

Where are they now? As mentioned, Aksaha now has her own restaurant in LA, aptly called ‘AKASHA‘. Mani Niall was the founder of Mani’s Bakery which operated on Fairfax Ave. in LA for years. However, I believe Mani’s is now closed and has been replaced by another bakery. Mani is currently Executive Chef for Just Desserts in San Francisco.

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SOURCES and References:

MORE from about cooking, food, chefs, and Michael:

Michael was a gourmet when it came to nourishing with Love: 

Candy and Cookies and Pie! Oh My!

Really Really Brad and the Slam-Dunk Sisters: 

Why they needed to be concerned about Michael not eating much in 2009, and a bit about Chef Remi:

Memories of Michael by chef Larry Banares:

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Feb 03 2012

Don Cornelius of Soul Train, Madame Butterfly and Michael

Category: Friends,Photos,Quotes About MJ,VideosSeven @ 2:04 am

Don Cornelius with a young Michael during one of their many interviews

Don Cornelius, the creator of the pioneering dance and music TV show Soul Train on which Michael and his brothers appeared many times, passed away on February 1st, apparently of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. When Michael passed, Don remembered him and the Jacksons. A dancer from Soul Train who knew Michael and the Jacksons had some memories to share as well. Here they are, along with a video compilation video of Don’s many interviews with Michael on Soul Train over the years.

First, Don Cornelius from Time :

The younger guys coming up used him as the standard. If there’s anyone to use as the standard, to shoot at, to compare yourself with, it’s Michael Jackson.

The word got around that these kids from Gary, Ind. — next door to Chicago, where I was working as an announcer — were amazing. A lot of the local recording artists were being told, “If these Jackson 5 kids are on the show that you’re contemplating [doing], don’t book the show because they will kick your ass.” That’s when Michael was 6 or 7. I got to know their father Joe Jackson accidentally — or I sought him out, I can’t remember; it’s been a long time. Most of the guys I worked with at the radio station did some moonlighting as stage-show promoters, and I found a venue and decided to do one. Joe was nice enough to give me the group. That’s how I met them and first got to know Michael. He was about 8.

Michael epitomized the incredible lead singer that most major groups tend to have: the Miracles with Smokey Robinson, the Commodores with Lionel Richie, the Temptations with Eddie and Dennis. Joe Jackson had figured out that that was the formula: he had the spectacular lead singer who could do every step that James Brown ever demonstrated. Michael was just a killer onstage. That’s the first thing you noticed. He knew his way around a stage; he commanded the whole operation.

He had a star quality, even as an 8-year-old. He was such a lovable individual. If you were backstage, you saw the women who happened to be on the same show, and they just kind of adopted Michael. They were always hugging and kissing and rubbing him — it went on and on, more than almost any other kid could possibly bear. I’m sure Michael got tired of it, but he never complained. They were all over him. As time went on, he sort of fell in love with Diana Ross —her music and her singing — and I think it was mutual. She fell in love with him also. He was still only 9 or 10.

With a guy who’s that young, you don’t try to project how good he’s gonna be ’cause he’s only 4 ft. tall. You’re looking at a small person who can do anything he wants to do onstage — with his feet or his voice. To get to the level of people who can do that, you’re talking about James Brown as a performer. You’re talking about Aretha Franklin as a singer. Or Stevie Wonder or Donny Hathaway — people who were renowned for being able to do whatever they wanted to do with their voices. Michael was like that as a kid. As he began to evolve, you could hear Diana in his singing. You could hear Stevie Wonder. You could hear Marvin Gaye. You could hear Smokey. Once he put it all together, you wouldn’t hear anybody imitating him, because he just had too much going for him as a singer. He was the man. The younger guys coming up used him as the standard. If there’s anyone to use as the standard, to shoot at, to compare yourself with, it’s Michael Jackson.


Pat Davis aka 'Madame Butterfly'

And here is an interview by Soul Train with Patricia Davis, from Soul Train’s own website:

Patricia Davis is one of the original members of the Soul Train Gang who danced on the show from nearly its very beginning. Patricia remembers fun loving Michael who she nicknamed ‘Dodo Bird

Soul Train: You were also good friends with Michael Jackson and the Jackson family, correct?

Patricia Davis: Yes. The first time they came to Soul Train, they invited me and Gary Keys (another popular Soul Train dancer) to their dressing room because they loved our dancing on the show. After that, they invited Gary and me to their house and we taught them things like the Robot, locking steps and certain neck movements. We would even go to the movies with them, but they had to wear disguises so that no one would recognize them.

Soul Train: What are some of your memories from that time with Michael Jackson?

Patricia Davis: I remember one time I was at his house and we had just finished dancing and we went outside and I playfully grabbed Michael and we were playing and running back and forth between parked cars in the Jacksons driveway. Suddenly, a big mafia type guy grabbed me and said, “Don’t hurt him (Michael), he’s worth a lot of money. Be careful of how you are playing.” I didn’t know who that man was, whether he was a security guard or someone doing business with Joe Jackson (Michael’s father).

Soul Train: Michael has said in interviews that he was sad and shy during his adolescence. Did you witness any of that during the times you spent with him?

Patricia Davis: Yes, I got a sense of his shyness. I understood Michael so much. He just wanted to dance and perform. But when he came off the stage, he was introverted. It was hard to get away from the camera and the stage. I was the same way. On the set of Soul Train, when the cameras were off, I ran away from them because I was very shy.

But Michael could be a prankster also. Once, when Lisa Jones (another Soul Train dancer) and I were at his house, he asked Lisa, “Do you want some potato chips?” Lisa said, “Yeah, I like potato chips!” So Michael gave Lisa the bag of chips and she reached into the bag and there was a snake in it! (Laughs)

Soul Train: (Laughs) So you also got to see Michael’s playful side?

Patricia Davis: Yes. I even had a nickname for him. Dodo Bird! (Laughs)

Soul Train: The death of Michael Jackson a couple of years ago was shocking and a huge loss. Since he was a friend of yours, I know that it must have been especially painful.

Patricia Davis: Oh yes. Michael’s death was very sad.

Patricia Davis is one of the original members of the Soul Train Gang who danced on the show from nearly its very beginning. A dance icon as well as a fashion icon, she was noted for her 1940s-style outfits and the flowers and butterfly hair pieces she wore in her hair which earned her the nickname “Madame Butterfly.”

And those interviews:

Rest in Peace, Don

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